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Wisconsin Legislator Wants Action On Student Loans

Eau Claire Democrat Dana Wachs is working on legislation to replace the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which was killed by the U.S. Senate last week. Credit: Wisconsin State Legislature
Eau Claire Democrat Dana Wachs is working on legislation to replace the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which was killed by the U.S. Senate last week. Credit: Wisconsin State Legislature
October 8, 2015

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - Legislation which would have extended the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which provided financial assistance to more than half a million students throughout the country, was blocked last week in the U.S. Senate.

Eau Claire Representative Dana Wachs, the ranking Democratic member of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, is drafting legislation to try and replace the Perkins Loan Program.

"We've got 18,500 Wisconsin students left hanging," says Wachs. "The net effect of this will take hold in the next semester, but this represents a clear and present danger to the ability of kids to continue to get their educations in Wisconsin."

As he works on writing new legislation to replace the Perkins Loan Program, Wachs also calls for the state legislature to pass the "Higher Ed, Lower Debt" bill, which had its first public hearing this week. Wachs says the state must find ways to make college more affordable in order to ensure students aren't buried in debt when they graduate.

Wachs says high-interest student loans are a huge financial drag on students long after they get a degree and join the work force.

"We need to turn this generation loose economically," says Wachs. "Economically they could be buying homes, buying cars, and what-not. But instead of that they're functionally enslaved to bankers in other states and that's something that just has to stop."

The Perkins Loan Program represented more than $30 million a year in assistance to Wisconsin higher education students. Wachs says it's critical that we come up with ways to make higher education affordable for all Wisconsin families.

"We need to start thinking more along the lines of making sure our kids are provided for in terms of economic stability during their college years, and we cannot saddle them with these endless oppressive high-interest loans," says Wachs.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI